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Educational Consumer Tips

Online Shopping

Author: Rachel Gelb
Category: Retail

Online shopping has become an easy way for consumers to purchase products they need from the convenience of their home. The Internet houses the same large selection as those who choose to shop in stores but without crowds or lines. When shopping online, it is important to know the business where the purchase is being made and to protect personal information from fraud.

Tips for Online Shopping:             

Know the Website.  Before ordering any merchandise, check the URL link to make sure it starts with “https://” (the ‘s’ means it is secure). Also look for a small padlock icon usually located at the corner of the URL bar. These symbols tell shoppers that a website is secure. Make sure to confirm the address and phone number of the online business in case there are any issues contacting them.

Read and Compare.  When buying a product, read the whole description including the fine print. It is important to understand the details of the product being purchased so there are no surprises when it’s delivered. Check competitor prices to guarantee the lowest price. There are many online resources that allow the comparison of products and offer coupon codes to get a better deal.

Check the Return Policy.  Read the return policy to see if the business allows a full refund if the customer is not happy with the product. Review the policy to see who pays for the cost of shipping and handling for the return.  

Choose the Correct Payment Method.  Always pay with a credit card when shopping online. A purchase with a credit card is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This allows customers to briefly hold payment while a problem is reviewed and resolved. This act also protects customers in the event that credit card information is stolen and used without permission. Make sure to print the receipts and product information of any online purchases to prevent incorrect charges.

Keep Personal Information Safe.  Never email any personal information such as credit card and banking numbers, or social security numbers. Be careful to only give financial information through secure websites. Check the privacy policy to see how the business is using the information they have requested.     

In the Event of Online Fraud.  If there is a problem with a purchase or business, complaints can be filed with the Better Business Bureau to help resolve the issue. The Federal Trade Commission also handles complaints at

About the Author: Rachel Gelb is Communications and Marketing Manager for BBB serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. Find Rachel on Google +.

Questions and Comments

Comment Submitted 1/3/2014

I have checked ******.com, *******.com and and none of these online places have the https:// or the pad lock. What does this mean? Is this something I should look for? I was using this information to decide if a webpage I am not familiar with was safe or not and the information seems to be misleading. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, *******

Question Submitted 5/17/2014

What's Kansas laws on Internet pricing misprint?

BBB's Answer:

I would contact your State Attorney General's office for this question.

Comment Submitted 7/10/2014

Is there a BBB for international shopping. I want to purchase a sunscreen UV Natural Baby to be specific which is in Australia. How much risk is there in international purchasing.

Question Submitted 8/6/2014

I received a check for $1600.00 for a mystery shopping assignment.I am suppose to go to store and and shop.The cashier's is made out to region bank.I am suppose to take out $300.00 for myself and spend the remaining on two five hundred money packs and send to the companyhow can I find out if this company is legit?this is the address: ******* ******* ******* ***** *** **** * ******* ***** ********** ******* ******

BBB's Answer:

You can check out the business on
Here is an educational tip on Mystery Shopping -
Here is a BBB video about Mystery Shopping

Question Submitted 12/22/2014

I purchased an item online, and the short story is that I want to file a complaint regarding them. Who do I put the complaint to? The local version of the online store?

BBB's Answer:

You would file a complaint with the business you purchased the good/service from.

You can file a complaint with BBB at

Question Submitted 8/1/2015

Is it possible to see if an online retailer has had complaints against them in the past? If it is possible, where would I find out? I'm active duty military, and have been ordering online for as many years as there has been online ordering available, I'm being told by a particular company that it "costs them more" to ship to an FPO address, but they offer FPO shipping on their site and as I said, I've been using FPO (Federal Post Offices) to receive goods for years, I've never had to pay extra, and they're refusing to ship my order unless I give them a different shipping address, but also refusing to refund my payment. Thank You for your time. ******* ****** ***************************** ***** ********

BBB's Answer:

Search for the business on to see if we have a Business Review on file about the business. 

Comment Submitted 11/29/2015

I purchased a camper from a wholesale website and before it arrived I cancled it and asked for a refund. I cancled it in October, they said they would send all but $800 back. Though customer service was helpful they gave me the run around about when the check would be cut out and sent back to me. It's 2 months later and still no check. The last conversation we had was via email and it stated my check would be cut out on Nov. the 23rd. I called them yesterday and they said refunds normally take 3-4 days! This just upset me more! I am looking for any suggestion as to how to get my money back. I am at the point that I feel I need to retain an attorney. Has anyone else experienced this?

Comment Submitted 3/2/2016

I bought a product online and gave my information but never submitted the order and the company sent the order. How can a company take my money with out send me an email saying the order went through. I have never experienced this before. Is this legal???
Views expressed on this page are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Business Bureau.

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